EVE Online's Project Discovery is a story of how gaming communities can band together to solve real-world problems. Last year, the MMO's fan base helped map the human proteome, and this year, they're helping with something they might be more familiar with: charting outer space.
At Fanfest, the annual gathering of the EVE Online community, developer CCP Games revealed more about the project, which was initially announced in February (opens in new tab). Players will scour images from the Kepler space telescope for anomalies—specifically, they're looking for areas where the light from a distant star is interrupted, which could indicate the presence of an elusive exoplanet.
Once a player finds something they think is a bit fishy, they will write a short description and submit it to a database holding all responses. The images that are flagged the most will then be sent to the University of Geneva, who are leading the project alongside Massively Multiplayer Online Science and the University of Reykjavik.
Essentially, researchers are using the players to filter out the noise, leaving them to focus on the most likely images, therefore increasing the chances of finding an exoplanet.
The man leading the project is Michel Mayor, the first scientist to discover an exoplanet, who appeared on stage in Iceland to drum up some enthusiasm with players.
If the cause of human advancement weren't motivation enough to get fans to take part, there's in-game currency and other digital rewards to be had. Which always helps.
For more, check out the stream of the evening's action below (skip to 2:26:00 for details of Project Discovery). And don't miss Andy's piece on last year's Project Discovery (opens in new tab) —the initiative potentially helped improve the diagnosis and treatment of disease.